iPhone users could soon finally be able to easily use any supported carrier at the end of their service contract without having to jump through hoops or use other means to unlock the device. That is if a proposed bill currently processing through Congress passes and becomes law.
The Hill reports that the mentioned bill, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, cleared through the Senate after a vote on Tuesday through a ‘unanimous consent agreement’ and will next move to the House for a vote before potentially becoming law after first being introduced last year.
With a likely new iPhone jailbreak coming this Superbowl Sunday and unlocking phones’ DMCA exemption expiring this weekend, a lot of us don’t know where they stand with regard to the law. If you are in Canada, for example, the government is moving toward passing laws that require carriers to unlock phones and cap early termination fees. Must be nice.
In the ‘Home of the Free’, things got a lot murkier with the expiration of the DMCA exemption last weekend. So, does that mean you can jailbreak? How about carrier unlocking? The Electronic Frontier Foundation says:
First, the good news. The legal shield for jailbreaking and rooting your phone remains up – it’ll protect us at least through 2015. The shield for unlocking your phone is down, but carriers probably aren’t going to start suing customers en masse, RIAA-style. And the Copyright Office’s decision, contrary to what some sensational headlines have said, doesn’t necessarily make unlocking illegal.
So, Jailbreaking is cool. At least for another few years. Enjoy your Superbowl jailbreak.
Carrier unlocking is murky, but it appears that phones bought before last weekend are fair game for unlocking. Go nuts!
But, new phones? It sounds like the risk is on the “unlockers” or the people who do the unlocking.
More likely, wireless carriers, or even federal prosecutors, will be emboldened to sue not individuals, but rather businesses that unlock and resell phones. If a court rules in favor of the carriers, penalties can be stiff – up to $2,500 per unlocked phone in a civil suit, and $500,000 or five years in prison in a criminal case where the unlocking is done for “commercial advantage.” And this could happen even for phones that are no longer under contract. So we’re really not free to do as we want with devices that we own.
What’s interesting is a cottage industry has formed around unlocking done by actually getting the carriers to unlock your phone. For instance, friend of the site, ChronicUnlocks is still in operation in the United States, and we’re hearing nothing but good things from readers who’ve bought unlocks. The site says:
Just a quick note: As we reported, carrier-unlocking your iPhone goes from questionably legal to questionably illegal tonight. So, if you are considering unlocking your iPhone for future use, you may want to take advantage of this last little window.
ChronicUnlocks.com has been a solid provider of iPhone unlocks for our readers and us for a while now if you are looking for a good place to unlock an iPhone. Chronic’s lawyers are working to see if there is a legal way to unlock phones after today, but it might make sense to do it now just in case it isn’t.
A report from MacStories yesterday claimed that many third-party websites selling developer access to Apple’s iOS betas are no longer live.
The blog apparently contacted the websites’ owners. It soon confirmed with at least one that Apple recently submitted a copyright infringement claim, so the website’s hosting service immediately took the page offline. A Wired report from last month by Andy Baio first spotlighted the trend of websites that sell developer access to iOS betas by doling UDID activations to any paying user. Apple restricts UDID activation to registered developers.
The Wired report allegedly sparked a flurry of website takedown requests. The CEO of Fused, a hosting service, even admitted to the MacStories, “Apple has been fairly heavy-handed with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) requests to the ones we host”:
- After noticing several of the sites mentioned in Baio’s article had become unavailable in recent weeks (activatemyios.com, iosudidregistrations.com, activatemyudid.com, udidregistration.com, instantudidactivation.com), we reached out to some of them asking whether Apple was behind the takedown of their “services”, which infringed on Apple’s developer agreement. While most of our emails bounced, we heard back from one of the site owners (who asked to remain anonymous), who confirmed his hosting provider took down the site after a complaint for copyright infringement by Apple. Similarly, the CEO of Fused tweeted in a reply to Andy Baio that Apple had been “fairly heavy-handed” with DMCA requests to UDID-selling sites hosted on their network.
- In the email, the site owner said that their website made $75,000 since last June, when Apple released the first beta of iOS 6 to developers. “We do not believe our service was infringing and our services did not violate their guidelines for iOS 6″, the site owner commented, adding that they will soon launch another similar site, “with better and more secure data lines to handle Apple”.
- The owner of another site replied to our emails with a “no comment”. According to him, “the Wired article has caused all these sites to go down”.
- Indeed, it appears Apple has started taking action against these sites recently, and more precisely after Wired ran the story on UDID activation.
To install an iOS beta, developers must register their account with Apple and receive UDID activation for $99 a year. Third-party websites, on the other hand, sell UDID activation for a cheaper price—usually around $10.